What is the objective of ESTOC?

ESTOC, European Smokeless Tobacco Council, was established in 1989 and represents the interests of smokeless tobacco manufacturers and distributors as well as tobacco trade associations. We monitor all smokeless tobacco related issues, including the latest scientific developments at a European and worldwide level. Whilst we have a particular focus to the EU our objective is the worldwide legislation of Swedish snus and other lower risk smokeless tobacco products, based on a regulatory framework. Our objective is also to secure the permission-to-sell smokeless tobacco products that comply with our regulatory framework in Europe and in other parts of the world.

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What is smokeless tobacco?

There is no universal definition of smokeless tobacco products. Generally, the term ‘smokeless tobacco’ applies to a wide range of products whose common feature is that they do not have to be lit before use.

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What is Swedish snus?

Swedish snus is an oral smokeless tobacco product (a variety of oral moist snuff) which is used widely in Sweden although sales are prohibited in the rest of the EU. There are five main ingredients in snus: selected tobacco, water, salt, humectants and flavours.

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What types of Swedish snus are there?

The two types of Swedish snus are ‘loose’ snus, and ‘portion snus’. To maintain the moisture, flavour and aroma both variants are packaged in cans.

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How is Swedish snus manufactured?

It is manufactured using a heat-treatment process similar to pasteurisation, helping to minimise the risk of the formation of nitrosamines during storage and ensuring the highest possible quality and hygiene standards.

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Is snus only used in Sweden?

Smokeless tobacco products, including snus are traditionally used in all the Nordic countries - however the sale of snus is only legal in Sweden and Norway. In Denmark, only the loose form of snus is legally available. For the Finnish island of Åland, the sale of snus is a controversial trade issue.

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What does the so called "Swedish experience" stand for?

The risk of dying from a tobacco-related illness is lower in Sweden than in any other European country despite tobacco consumption being on a comparable level with other European countries. This paradox is often referred to as the Swedish Experience and is primarily explained by the fact that snus, a smokeless tobacco product, has served as a viable and less harmful alternative to cigarettes for Swedish men.

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What are the snus rates compared to the smoking rates in Sweden?

Approx. snus prevalence (2007): men 19%, women 4%.*
Approx. smoking prevalence (2007): men 12%, women 16%*

*Ref. FHI, 2007. The National Institute of Public Health, FHI, 2007

Is snus safe?

There is no conclusive consensus as to what might constitute a ‘safe’ tobacco product and, therefore, no tobacco product is completely free from risk, including Swedish snus. However, ESTOC supports the opinion of many in the scientific community that some smokeless tobacco product categories, such as Swedish snus, are far less hazardous than other tobacco products.

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What is tobacco harm reduction?

The harmful effects of cigarette smoking arise mainly through the burning of tobacco. The harm reduction approach is based on the recognition that the health hazards of cigarette smoking can largely be avoided by switching to smokefree sources of nicotine. This could be accomplished through either smokefree tobacco-based products (such as snus) or through nicotine-replacement products (such as patches or chewing gum).

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Does Swedish snus have high nitrosamine levels?

In Sweden, there is no regulation regarding tobacco specific nitrosamines (TSNA) levels although the limit set by industry standards is 10 mg/kg (dry weight). In 2002, the Swedish National Food Administration published the results of an investigation into TSNA levels in snus products on the Swedish market - a mean value of 1.1 mg/kg was reported, which the Administration considered a low level.

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Is Swedish snus less addictive than cigarettes?

Available evidence suggests that Swedish snus and cigarettes are equally addictive. Results from a scientific study conducted in the early 1990s showed that Swedish snus users and cigarette smokers experience similar levels of subjective dependence.* Another Swedish study has shown that it is not more difficult to quit using snus than to quit cigarette smoking.**

* Ref.: Holm, H., Jarvis, M.J., Russell, M.A.H., and Feyerabend, C. 1992. Nicotine intake and dependence in Swedish snuff takers. Psychopharmacology 108:507-511. ** Ref.: Gilljam, H., Rankka, M., and Langworth, S. 2003. Smokeless tobacco cessation with NRT: a feasability study. Poster at the Fifth European Conference of the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco, Padova, Italy.

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Who should not use Swedish snus?

The choice of whether to use snus or not is that of the informed adult. Children should not use snus. In Sweden, the legal age for the purchase of snus is 18. ESTOC also advises women to avoid using snus during pregnancy since it could have an adverse affect on the unborn child due to the effect of nicotine.

What are the health effects of Swedish snus?

The harmful effects of cigarette smoking arise mainly through the burning of tobacco. This is avoided with smokeless tobacco products. Snus is also manufactured using a set of strict procedures called the GothiaTek® standard. This standard ensures that levels of undesirable compounds in snus are minimized in an effort to protect health.

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Does Swedish snus have a health warning?

In 2001, the EU removed the cancer health warning applied to smokeless tobacco products and changed it to "This product can damage your health and is addictive". This is the health warning applied to all smokeless tobacco products sold in the EU today. The change was in response to a number of scientific studies indicating that Swedish snus is not associated with an increased risk of cancer in the oral cavity, and on that basis "...scientific opinion no longer supports a strong warning as is currently set out in Directive 92/41/EEC ('Causes Cancer')".

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Do ESTOC member companies report the ingredients used in their products?

ESTOC members are committed to communicating information about their products to consumers, regulators and other stakeholders. They provide details on an annual basis of the ingredients used in their products to all the national authorities in the countries where their products are sold.

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Who is responsible for regulating smokeless tobacco in Sweden?

Since snus and chewing tobacco (manufacture, product chemistry and contents declaration) are governed by the National Food Act in Sweden, the Swedish Food Authority represents one governing body. Regulation of warning labels and EU reporting of ingredients are enforced by the Swedish National Institute of Public Health. The marketing regulation is enforced by the Swedish Consumer Agency.

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Why was snus prohibited in the EU in 1992?

The EU prohibited selected tobacco products for oral use, including Swedish snus, on the basis that it would be used by young people and posed a health risk. Sweden was granted an exemption when it joined the EU in 1995.

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How and why should the EU definition of oral tobacco be changed?

Smokeless tobacco should define all products that are not smoked, but are used orally or inhaled through the nose. It should meet the constituent limits of a science-based product regulation for smokeless products, instead of the current situation where market access of smoke-free products is based on how the product is used and not the quality and the relative risk of it.

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What changes would ESTOC like to propose to the EU Tobacco Product Directive?

ESTOC proposes a new regulation for smokeless tobacco products (snus, chewing tobacco, oral and nasal snuff), which is science-based, addresses consumer protection and has food regulation as one of the guiding principles.

Click here to learn more on ESTOC's Proposal - a new science based product regulation.

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